What is Search Engine Optimisation?

Daniel Vidoni outlines some of the components related to search engines, how they think and how you can use them to increase traffic to your site.

What is search engine optimisation and how can it help me? As a web developer I get asked this a lot so I decided to write a brief article outlining some of the components related to the enigmatic field surrounding search engines, how they think and how you can use them to increase traffic to your site.

Anatomy of a search engine

Search engines have been around for about as long as the Internet. They are essentially a phone book for the Internet. Their function is simple: build a database of sites; associate them with keywords; build an index of keywords; allow users to search the index and find the most relevant site fitting their query.

Whenever you go to a search engine such as Google, type in a query and hit Enter, a series of gears deep within the search engine is set into motion. Complex data structures and algorithms are used to compare your query keywords with known matches in the database. The results are sorted by relevance and sent your browser in the form of a list.

How search engines work - data mining

The databases are created by web crawling software. When a search engine is introduced to a new web site, either by submission or by cross-linking from another site which is already aware of it, it immediately begins building a list of links found on the first page it encounters. When the list is complete, it takes the first link and dives into it, following it to the next page down the tree. It then builds a new list of links found on that page.

It continues doing this until it has a complete cross-linked tree for the entire site. It then begins the process of looking at the content, building keyword associations and gradually spiraling back up to the root page. When it reaches the root page the site is fully indexed and it continues on to the next site in its list of ites to be crawled.

This process is an example of ‘data mining’.

Search engine secrets - secret squirrel

The algorithms used in analysing the web pages and keywords for inclusion are closely guarded secrets. Every search engine has different priorities, weightings, and methods of analysis. The reason it’s a secret is because if people knew exactly what to feed the search engine they could create their web sites specifically to make it to the top of the ranking list, thus giving them an unfair advantage in what is supposed to be a objective system.

SES (search engine submission)

Search engine submission consists of informing a search engine of the existence of your web site and is usually done soon after completion of a new web site. There are many companies that specialise in search engine submission. For a small fee they make sure that the search engines on their lists are informed of the existence and location of your web site.

Unfortunately this is no guarantee that your web site will be listed at or near the top of the list when a query is made. It simply means the search engine knows that your web site exists. In order to get good rankings, the web site needs to be optimised specifically for the target market which you seek traffic from.

SEO (search engine optimisation)

Search engine optimisation is the process by which a web site is reshaped, reorganised, and rewritten in such a way as to maximise the probability of search engines finding it and ranking it at the top of their list.

In essence a search engine optimisation specialist has an excellent understanding of how search engines work, think, and what they want. This allows them to craft web sites that are search engine friendly, and optimised for the specific types of traffic that their customers wish to attract. It’s a lot like constructing a marketing plan, and in today’s world just as important.

What is the point of spending thousands of dollars on a web presence if no one comes to see it ?

Web site promotion is becoming increasingly relevant in the new economy as more and more businesses and corporations race to expand their client base by taking full advantage of the internet's global nature.

For example, if you’re selling digital cameras on your web site, you would like people to find your site at or near the top of the listings whenever they type ‘digital camera’ into a search engine query. This is the task of the search engine optimiser: to get your site in a high-profile position and generate traffic (customers) for your business.

It involves a good understanding of search engine technology, an ability to objectively analyse statistical information, excellent language skills and considerable patience.

SEO outcomes

Search engine optimisation of your web site is not cheating or queue jumping - it is the thinking through of the kind of traffic you wish to attract and providing content to attract it. At the end of the day the outcome is a better quality experience for your clients, with more relevant content available to them.

It also gives people more confidence in Internet technology in so far as when they type in a query they know that they will be getting highly relevant results from it and not have their time and bandwidth wasted.

In effect, search engine optimisation creates a kind of filter attracting certain specific types of traffic to your site, while rejecting non-relevant queries. After all, if you’re selling olive oil on your site you don’t want hundreds of inquiries a day for motor oil !

Keywords : search, engine, optimisation, seo, google, rank, website, hits Author : Daniel Vidoni

Daniel Vidoni Graphic & Web Design is based in Sydney, Australia and has almost two decades of experience with business solutions ranging from brochures and posters to e-commerce web site design. Its primary focus is the creation of custom web sites for small to medium businesses. http://www.vidoni.com.au/

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